Court to hear e-mail case

HOWELL, Mich. - The Michigan Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Jan. 5, 2010, in a case involving the public release of teacher union e-mail messages, according to radio station WHMI-FM.

Copies of the e-mails originally were sought by Oakland County resident Chetly Zarko, who alleged that members of the Howell Education Association used Howell Public Schools computers to lobby the public and the school board about teacher employment benefits, the station reported. He requested copies under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

The Livingston County Circuit Court ruled in November 2008 that the e-mails could be released, but the Howell Education Association appealed, according to WHMI-FM. Former HEA President Doug Norton said at the time that the union had a "recognized right" to use the district e-mail server for union business, the station reported.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case, stating that documents created by public officials using public computer systems are public records and should be treated as such under the state's FOIA. The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

WHMI-FM, "State Court To Hear Arguments In Howell Teachers E-mail Suit," Dec. 28, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Howell Education Association v. Howell Board of Education," April 15, 2009